second impressions

The Charge 3 has one minor flaw: it’s a little too secure. By which I mean I keep having to re-enter the PIN to enable Fitbit Pay more often than I thought I would. Other than that, it seems to be getting the job done in multiple ways. I do get notifications on the arm almost all the time – I think it might have dropped one or two, but so did the Apple Watch, honestly, and it’s a hell of a lot better than what I was getting from the Alta. The NFC payment has actually worked most places (although because of Lent I haven’t tried it on vending machines, which is where it was usually an attractive nuisance). The breathing exercise only has settings for 2 and for 5 minutes, but that seems to be fine, and in fact the efficacy of the vibrating alarm is such that I now have alarms set for breathing exercises morning and night. 

And best of all, I don’t have to plug it in every night or take it off to shower. Although I will take it off to shower if I’m already over my 10,000 steps for the day so I can top it up, and as a result I haven’t even got close to running out of juice yet. And that is a singular accomplishment.

In a lot of ways, in fact, this feels like the final form of the Pebble that I first bought this time four years ago. The Pebble was a bit experimental (and in a lot of ways, was meant to be the methadone to keep me off the Apple Watch until my heart rate got out of control during the stress-meltdown of 2015), and like the Apple Watch was still bumping around the question of what is a smart watch for? The Charge 3 has refined that down to the same thing as everyone else: notifications and fitness tracking, and maybe payments. Anything fancier than that is right out – hell, even the Apple Watch’s music controls are superfluous to requirement if you can just hit up Siri through the headphones–

Hold up.

The new AirPods dropped today, same price as the old ones, with the option to have wireless charging in the case (or to just buy a wireless charging case to use with your old ones). The biggest difference in the new ones, aside from a new chipset and slightly better battery life? Is the “Hey Siri” function always on. Which is big. Because now you don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket. You could have one bud in and say “Hey Siri” and there is your virtual assistant ready to skip ahead or play a different playlist or give you directions, possibly. That is another huge step toward the JARVIS future.

I’m tempted by the AirPods anyway. I know there’s still something to worry about with all the Bluetooth through your dome piece, and I’m not insensitive to that, but there is a utility to the AirPods that I don’t have with any other wireless headphones I’ve ever owned, and it is this: the thing will charge in its case in your pocket. Which is to say, if I walk out the door in the morning, I know I would be good until I got home at night. I can take one out, top it up in 15 minutes, switch ears, top the other one up, and go all the way through – whereas with my BeatsX, I know if I don’t juice them up around 2 PM, they won’t go until bedtime, which is no small consideration if you think you’re going to be taking the train up to the SF Giants on a semi-regular basis this year.

My only concern is I don’t know for sure if the AirPods are going to fit my ears and stay there comfortably. It’s not a small ask, and it’s a big fail if you lay down $160 for something that doesn’t fit. And I like how low-key the BeatsX are, except the battery life is starting to suffer. But small practical steps toward a more wireless future…if anything happens to the BeatsX, I know what the first option is going to be, cashflow willing.

But in the meantime, the Charge 3 has almost everything I need and absolutely nothing I don’t, for half the price and five times the battery life of my old Apple Watch. That’s a good get.

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